Welcome, Robert Campbell

I’ve neglected PoT for the better part of the summer, and intend to continue the policy of neglect for the next few weeks. Explanation: Alison and I got married in January, and purchased a home (a townhouse) in June, closing in mid-July. Though I’m an old hand at the marriage thing, this was our first home purchase, and involved a pretty steep learning curve, having to do with a complicated bunch of adult transactions. So that absorbed a fair bit of time and energy.

And though the move in my case was “just” a matter of 40 miles–we moved two counties west of where I’d previously lived–it involved a bit of culture shock from which I haven’t yet recovered: from blue-voting Essex County to the 25th Trumpiest Town in New Jersey, just a few miles down the highway from the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. (Not sure we have room in our family budget for a membership there, but definitely looking into it.) The cultural change is not quite but almost on par with what one encounters on driving the two miles between the West Bank and Jerusalem, or Sderot and Gaza. But more on that some other time.  Continue reading

Enter Postman

Another episode in my ongoing contretemps with the world. One more of these, I swear, and I become a Buchananite Public Choice theorist, Nancy MacLean be damned.

Online complaint to the U.S. Post Office, Bloomfield, New Jersey:

Your menu doesn’t allow me accurately to describe my issue. This is the second time I’ve complained about this. My mail is being misdelivered now every single day. Some days I get someone else’s mail. Some days I get no mail. Some days the mail is left on top of the radiator in the foyer of my building but not delivered to boxes. A debit card that was sent to my address last month has not arrived. There has been no improvement whatsoever in the mail service since my last complaint [March 3, 2017].

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Character-Based Voting, a QED

OK, so he has objectionable views on incest. But can we really treat those as a proxy for his views on policy? Non-incest-based policy, I mean.  What if, as a condition of being elected, he promises never to touch the incest laws (and we can hold him to that), but as an accountant, he promises to reform the tax code in a desirable way?

You have to be grateful for a political environment that dishes up real-life examples of a kind you couldn’t have invented in a thought-experiment.


Dr. No at the Voting Booth: An Election Day Parable

Today is Election Day in New Jersey–our primary election. For months I’ve been blathering on and on like a fan-boy about the virtues and wonders of the Democratic front runner for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district, Mikie Sherrill. I was a fan way before the Times was. I went to her meetings. I contributed dutifully to her campaign via Blue Wave. At the last meeting, I grabbed a “Mikie Sherrill for Congress” lawn sign–not that I have a lawn. Today was going to be the proud day when, at last, I voted for her. Indeed, I Facebooked my intentions the night before:

My votes for the primary election: a “yes” to Mikie Sherrill for 11th district congressional representative, a “no” to Robert Menendez for US Senate.

I’d cross out the entire Republican slate if I could. But I’ll save that for November.

And I would, if I could. But I’ll get to that. Continue reading

Letters to Our Ruling Class (2): Protesting the Gaza Killings

Jewish Voice for Peace Northern New Jersey Chapter

Call to Action on May 30, from 12-2 pm.:

Place: One Gateway Center, 7-45 Raymond Blvd, Newark, steps from Newark Penn Station.
Date and Time: Wed., May 30, from 12-2 p.m.

As many of you, we have been horrified, anguished, and grieved to witness Israeli snipers shooting down Palestinian protestors who posed no threat to their lives or the lives of those Israelis they claimed to be protecting. More than 100 Palestinians have already been killed and more than 10,000 wounded, many with bullets that shatter bone such that amputation may be the only outcome, given the limitations of treatment available in Gaza under siege for a decade. Children, women, people walking away from the fence, people just standing around, people clearly marked as Press, have all been targeted. We have held two protest vigils in Montclair to raise public awareness.


JVP Gaza Protest: Montclair, New Jersey (May 12, 2018)

As the largest recipient of US military aid, Israel should be subject to the US laws prohibiting the commission of such human right s abuses by those countries receiving military aid. Only 14 US Senators, led by Senator Bernie Sanders, signed on to a letter calling for such sanctions. Sadly, neither of our NJ Senators were signatories.

We will be bringing a letter to the Senators, and meeting in front of their Newark offices, to call on them to condemn actions of the IDF, and call for sanctions, at the same time, informing people of these issues. Please join us and bring others with you.

Letters to Our Ruling Class (1): Senator Menendez on Syria

Here’s the text of a letter I wrote my Senator, Bob Menendez, on Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria a few weeks ago. His “response” follows. Obviously, it isn’t really a response, and isn’t really meant as one. I’m just curious what it takes to get a straight answer from our politicians on matters of war and peace. Famous last words, I realize.  Continue reading

Drawing the Line

At the end of the article, they make a hasty generalization says that the officer was a young officer that and his first instinct was to act in a situation where he thought a crime was happening. So therefore if someone is a young officer they will always jump into actions based on assumption that a crime is happening? That is not correct because we can see throughout the news that this is not the first case that this has happened and the officers are not young, they all different ages and come from backgrounds.

Having trouble following that? I don’t blame you. It’s a verbatim excerpt from a student response to a take-home exam I gave in my Phil 100 class, Critical Thinking. The whole essay reads like this. Neither the article mentioned nor the response given has anything (at all) to do with the exam assignment, which the student has blithely ignored. No information is given about the article, either: no author, title, date, or source. Continue reading

Moral Grandstanding and Character-Based Voting

I’ve recently been teaching Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke’s paper, “Moral Grandstanding“–and simultaneously been working on a paper on Jason Brennan’s critique of character-based voting–and happened to see an interesting connection between the two. So this post harks back to, and ties together, two topics we’ve recently been discussing here at PoT–Michael’s recent post on grandstanding, and mine on character-based voting.

Suppose, as per Brennan’s argument in The Ethics of Voting, that character-based voting is justified insofar as character functions either as a proxy for the policies that a candidate might enact once elected, or more generally, for the quality of governance he might be expected to engage in. Now suppose that character-based voting sometimes is justified on those grounds, so that character sometimes does function as a proxy variable for predictions about a candidate’s capacities for good governance in the future. Continue reading

“An Enmity to One’s Being”: A Murder in Palestine

Put in mere prose, the event sounds so humdrum and everyday that the reader is apt to let it in through one ear, and let it out the other:

AFTER A TRIAL that lasted nearly four years, Ben Deri, a former member of Israel’s paramilitary border police force, was sentenced to nine months in jail on Wednesday for firing live ammunition through the chest of an unarmed Palestinian protester without having been ordered to do so.

But sometimes, seeing is believing, and sticks with you awhile:

People sometimes complain, justifiably, that video footage of a crime or atrocity distorts the event by truncation: you miss what preceded the footage, and what came after, to fixate unfairly on the slice in between. Harder to make that claim here. Continue reading